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Safety Articles

Article # 2100

Handy Solutions Help Sticky Situations

A well-known tape company offers a variety of products that provide safety solutions for consumers as well as customers in business and industry. But, recently the tape company itself was looking for a solution-to help reduce the number of hand lacerations occurring in one of its plants. In mid-2000, Jim Nelson, safety engineer for the corporation facility that manufactures tape, including Post-It notes, tape, masking tape, decals, magnetic tape and YHS tape, decided to do something about the number of cuts workers were getting.

"In making tapes and films we often handle products on rolls," he explains. "It unwinds and goes through the machines. Some of this work is automated, but some is manual. Those rolls can be up to 2,000 pounds each. Our workers use utility knives to cut through the tape."

Nelson explains that whenever there is utility knife or razor blade usage there is a risk of lacerations. "Usually the problem was that people would slip and cut themselves. When you work with a knife all day, you sometimes can get careless. We had tried to address this problem with awareness programs, but we were still unhappy with the numbers. All the work on awareness wasn't getting us where we wanted to be. Lacerations were a large percentage of our accidents and while these accidents were not very dangerous we were not happy with the percentage."

Seeking a variety of options
Nelson met with his Magid rep to discuss the problem and see how it could be addressed with different options in protective equipment "We really needed a variety of options," he explains. "Some of our workers are working with very thin materials, like magnetic tape. They need dexterity to work, but they also need to protect themselves from razor sharp knives. Other employees are working with those 2,OOO-pound rolls of tape . They use big utility knives to cut through and they're cutting with a lot of force. If you slip and cut yourself doing these jobs, it could be very serious."

Magid brought in a variety of samples of cut-resistant gloves with varying levels of cut resistance, strength and dexterity to meet all these needs. "We let the employees try out the samples and provide feedback," says Nelson. "Since employees were part of the process, that meant better buy-in when we implemented the program."

The tape facility employees chose a number of options in each of three areas. "For light cutting jobs we have thin Kevlar gloves," Nelson explains. "Then we have heavier knit cotton Kevlar gloves dipped in rubber for medium jobs. And for really big jobs, we have Spectra gloves with a blend of stainless steel in them."

Strengthening policy
The tape corporation also instituted a mandatory glove policy for workers using utility knives. "We didn't want to have to go to mandatory gloves, but we had no choice," Nelson says. "All workers who use knives are now required to wear gloves, at least on the opposing hand. However, we do allow department managers to write exclusions for certain tasks. If they can show us why a certain task doesn't need a glove, we'll allow the exclusion. There are cases where the worker needs so much dexterity and the cutting part of the task itself is so easy that the risk of cut is limited. But those are rare. For the most part, everyone is wearing gloves at all times now."

Cuts have diminished considerably since the new gloves-and the new policy-were introduced. "Wearing gloves has become accepted practice now," Nelson says. "We really didn't get much resistance-at least not as much as expected. The workers are really happy with the glove choices. And the sizes meet everyone's needs, too. One size does not fit all. You can't blame workers for taking off gloves when they get in the way of your job. But that's not a problem for us these days!"